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The Wolf of Virginia Street ~ Riding The Yo-Yo

I had a such good rant prepared for Rebel fans this week, you guys! But instead, we've got another turkey of a loss to pick apart.

The Bullet Points

  • Nevada resumed their regular two-games-per-week grind by delivering on the grandiose stage set up for them at Lawlor with a 104-77 beatdown of UNLV. In the program’s most lopsided win of the rivalry’s short history, D.J. Fenner went NBA Jam on the Rebels with a 37-point explosion on 12 of 15 shooting. For his part, Cameron Oliver chipped in 25 of his own points which, on any other night, would’ve similarly dominated the highlight reel. But since February is now apparently Alternating Opposite Games Month, the Pack followed up their celebratory pasting by getting pasted themselves in a 70-56 dud in San Diego. SDSU held the Pack to their second-worst shooting performance of Musselman’s tenure as a college head coach, and the ball seemingly found new ways to miss the net and land right in the hands of an Aztec player every time the Pack hoisted up a shot.

  • After Wednesday night’s game, I typed out an epic rant about the hypocrisy of many Rebel fans’ reactions to their team wetting themselves on Wednesday night. It was separated into three paragraphs, there were footnotes included, and I even preemptively negotiated for the audiobook version to be narrated by Henry Rollins. But now you’ll never see it, because I had to delete it after Nevada did the exact same thing yesterday and changed the whole narrative for this week. It's probably similar to how the Albuquerque Journal felt after Nevada's win at the Pit. Is yo-yoing between extremes the new normal for the Pack? I don’t think so yet, but it’s got to be driving their coaches up a wall, across the ceiling and right down the other wall to troubleshoot. If you had flipped the channel to Sunday’s game without any hint as to where the two teams were in the Mountain West standings, would you have ever guessed that Nevada was playing to reclaim first place? That’s three times in a month the Pack has followed up a terrific performance or two with an absolute clunker. And speaking of troubled shooting, a pattern has started to emerge in those last few losses: Marcus Marshall doesn’t score, the team doesn’t rebound, and each failed possession snowballs into a bigger and bigger deficit. It’s getting to the point where the blueprint for other teams to beat Nevada is disquietingly simple, and no game in the supposedly “easy” half of their conference schedule can be overlooked. This says nothing of once again falling out of first place, which stings all the more with how underwhelming the Mountain West continues to be.

  • Nevertheless, that persists with their next two games at Air Force and at home against Utah State. When Nevada is on point, dispatching either of these teams wouldn’t be difficult, but we’ve already seen the Aggies drill them once, and the Falcons came uncomfortably close to doing the same thing themselves. While it’s true that Nevada remains 5-0 in games immediately following a loss this season, even that can’t be taken as absolute anymore. Musselman’s present challenge is finding a consistent medium somewhere near “en fuego” that doesn’t immediately segue to puffery or letdown in their next game. Getting more help from Marshall’s teammates — and more consistent help from Cameron Oliver — is their most urgent priority. Reclaiming the top of the league will depend on how well they can anticipate the defensive looks they’re sure to keep getting, get back to their own defense in transition more quickly, and adapt to what they're given.

The Beer

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale (Chico, California) ~ No connections to either of this week’s opponents means it’s time for another installment of “What’s In My Fridge?” Slightly confusing name aside, barleywines — which are still, in fact, beers — really are wine-like in a few key ways. These include their intense fruit-like flavors, high alcohol content, and their ability to take on new traits as they age. Bigfoot, in particular, gets a new recipe each year, making it a popular choice among beer geeks for vertical tastings. This year’s edition poured a ruby, garnet-like red with a small, tannish head that disappeared fast. The smells ran the gamut of citrusy hops — Cascade, Centennial and Chinook, to be exact — along with a teeny bit of caramel and bread dough. Pine, grapefruit and citrus hoppiness took center stage in the taste, then gave way to notes of candied fruit and caramel before finishing with a slight alcoholic burn that lingered. Even with all of those strong flavors, it felt smoother than I can recall previous Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) tasting. I’m really interested to see how this one ages with time, so I’ll put one of these 2017 bottles in my cellar (meaning “the pantry under my stairs”). I give this fresh one four tipsy Wolfies out of five.

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